Harold Millar and Protestant collective guilt

Sunday Sequence today carried an answer from Dr. Hazlett Lynch of the West Tyrone Voice victims association to the comments from Rt Rev Harold Miller, Bishop of Down and Dromore that Protestants must accept their role in the Troubles. Miller had said:

“We, that is Protestants, need to unilaterally look at our own faults, failings and sins, state them and confess them, because we still are inclined to see ourselves, as a community, as entirely the victims in the Troubles. What can we agree to say together in repentance and apology for where we as a community went wrong?”

Miller’s argument may have some merit. However, there is a very clear rebuttal of these views which should be made. Dr. Lynch made much of that rebuttal when he refuted the allegation that his younger brother (a member of the security forces murdered by terrorists) was in any way guilty. He went on to state that he Dr. Lynch had nothing to apologise for and did not need to apologise for the past.Dr. Lynch’s rebuttal can, however, be expanded on and although the counter argument from Rev. Miller’s comments can also be elaborated I will leave others do that.

The initial thing which many of those like Rev. Miller hark back to is the errors and failings of the old Stormont regime. I have previously mentioned these very major and gross failings (immoral even) and it is pretty clear that the civil rights movement had a large number of very valid points.

However, 1969 was 40 years ago and Stormont fell 37 years ago. If the collective “blame” for Stormont partly resides with those who voted unionist during the Stormont regime, that makes anyone under the age of 55 completely innocent even by the most extreme reading of blame. In addition I doubt even Rev. Miller is actually suggesting that voting unionist was a sin: maybe he means being involved in the administration of Stormont. In that case since almost no one much under 40 had any major say in government, the “guilt” becomes confined to a very small group of those now over 70.

The above is of course excessively simplistic but it is worth remembering that whatever the undoubted wrongs of the old Stormont it was a long time ago and as such any responsibility for those failings cannot be shared by the majority of the unionist community.

Of course the likes of Rev Miller broaden this supposed Prod guilt to include creating the situation which caused the troubles to continue. However, again that thesis is utterly flawed and in this case immorally so. It implies that unionists, by not giving in to the IRA who let us remember during most of the campaign demanded actual or promised British withdrawal prior to their ending their murder campaign, were partly responsible for their own murders. This sort of position is never admitted by the likes of Miller etc. but is actually pretty clear. By accusing unionists of not compromising with the IRA, this thesis is accusing them of doing wrong in not giving in to an extremist terrorist organisation which essentially regarded all Protestants (and many Roman Catholics) as legitimate targets. Even taking the IRA’s own utterly warped morality, they regarded Protestant businessmen, unionist politicians, judges, census recorders etc. as all legitimate targets and people commemorating the dead of various wars and others in the wrong place at the wrong time as simply acceptable causalities of war.

Of course the likes of Miller are usually too much the coward to say that the likes of Marie Wilson or Douglas Deering deserved their fates (though that is the clear implication of his logic). Instead we have wheeled out platitudes such as saying that unionists need to acknowledge that their “attitudes” helped cause and perpetuate the troubles. Again superficially there is some validity in that argument. However, again one comes back to the unfortunate (for Miller) fact that the attitudes in question were centrally the desire to live in peace and not accede to the demands of a group of essentially fascist murderers. Miller’s position of partial unionist guilt is actually worryingly similar to suggesting that the Tutsi’s alleged attitude of superiority was both the reason and a partial justification for them being massacred in Rwanda or indeed the Jews supposed wealth, conspiracies etc. being an explanation and partial justification for pogroms throughout the ages. To bring it to a more personal level that thesis is the same one which suggests that a young woman in a short skirt is somehow partially responsible for a sexual attack on her. Of course the likes of Miller would vociferously deny this but the connection is actually pretty similar. If the above examples in reality have one side completely black (the rapist) and one side white (the woman) as most of us would agree then equally here in Northern Ireland we have innocent victims (of both sides) and murderers (again of both sides).

In addition on a specifically theological point those who suggest that Protestant attitudes were at fault are claiming to be able to assess the attitudes and motives of individual people and to ascertain that they were wrong and indeed sinful. This is completely unacceptable in Protestantism as we hold to the priesthood of all believers: as such if a Christian states that his heart is correct, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary that should be accepted. Indeed for any prelate or other to claim that they know that a given person has sinful prejudice or hatred in their heart whilst that person denies it, is for the one making the claim in actual fact to claim that s/he is able to interpret the will of the Holy Spirit in the person’s soul. That is automatically to place the one making the claim in the place of a mediator between God and man and as such makes that person an antichrist.

Turning to the quote made by Rev Miller from 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” This passage and ones like it are used to proclaim that the whole unionist community needs to repent. However, although such passages are fairly popular for this purpose they may well not be relevant. They are specifically Old Testament passages and in the Old Testament the idea was that God had a special relationship with one nation (the Jews). However, the New Testament approach is that God’s relationship is with individual believers. As such a call for a group repentance in a New Testament context can only be interpreted as a call to individual believers to repent and as we have seen it is highly problematic for a prelate to tell individual believers to repent of things that they do not feel they have done wrong. Jesus had absolutely no time for the concept of collective guilt: each person was responsible for their own sins John 9:3 and each for their own salvation from sins (John 3:5). As such Miller is on extremely shaky theological ground in calling for the unionist community to repent of sins which he is identifying and claiming that they have committed.

At some level all this is pretty irrelevant as Protestants (and Catholics) have shown significant maturity in ignoring the more foolish remarks which emanate periodically from their religious leaders; people incidentally with relatively little mandate or accountability to those whom they lecture. However, the likes of Miller’s remarks do need to be challenged as they need to be seen in the context of a religious position which gives a veneer of legitimacy to the nonsense that we were all guilty for the Troubles. Indeed this argument tries to make those of us who deny our guilt more guilty than those who actually committed the atrocities of the troubles. We are all guilty of sins or for the non religious guilty of doing things wrong in this life. However, when it comes to the dreadful events of the last 40 years here the overwhelming majority of us are absolutely innocent and in contrast there are a group of extremely guilty people. Prelates or anyone else who try to blur that clear and simple distinction should have their morally and intellectually perverted position challenged every time they indulge in this spin.

  • Comrade Stalin

    However, 1969 was 40 years ago and Stormont fell 37 years ago. If the collective “blame” for Stormont partly resides with those who voted unionist during the Stormont regime,

    Turgon, don’t you think any blame lies with people who vote for politicians who knowingly associated with terrorists and encouraged them to continue to conduct their activities ?

    There are video clips on Youtube with Ian Paisley and several followers (there’s a chap standing behind him who looks remarkably like a young Jim Allister, although I can’t say for sure it’s him) saying that democracy has failed and that the only solution is civil war. Do you think the people who voted for him after he said those words should shoulder any blame ?

  • Turgon

    Comrade,
    No I do not think that voting for the DUP means one should shoulder blame for murders: just I do not blame anyone for voting for a party which helped a loyalist terrorist cheerleader at Stormont. I may disagree with both actions but I do not condemn people for voting for the DUP or Alliance respectively.

    To be fair I can also accept those who say that they only vote Sinn Fein since that party stopped advocating murder. I may not like the fact that many nationalists do vote SF but I do not accuse them of being supporters of murder for doing so.

  • Kevster

    I agree with one thing Voltaire said, “We are all guilty of the good we do not do”

  • Ulsters my homeland

    I agree with Rt Rev Harold Miller that we need to look at our own faults, failings and sins, because no matter how difficult it was for us to keep our freedoms and liberties after the Irish proclamation and the ethnic cleansing of our people from the South, we should have done more to pacify and reach out to those in N.Ireland who wanted to drive us to the sea. We shouldn’t have fought them gun-with-gun, but bamboozled them with ‘heretic Protestant scriptures’ until they gave up their weapons and recognised the legal excistence of N.Ireland.

  • Different Drummer

    I see your at it again Dr T – using (protestant) dead to legitimate your reactionary views

    As I said before just because atrocities were committed by the opposition to Apartheid does not make Apartheid right
    Similarly Unionist Ultras ‘legitimacy’ does not flow from the atrocities committed against it.

    That is pish poor rhetoric

  • John O’Connell

    They are specifically Old Testament passages and in the Old Testament the idea was that God had a special relationship with one nation (the Jews). However, the New Testament approach is that God’s relationship is with individual believers.

    Turgon, I hope you will accept that all who lift guns in the good fight for a single nation are living in the Old Testament. The only lesson that can be learned from the New Testament, the true word of God, is that defeat is preferable to taking up arms.

    If you can’t accept that simple rule, and it appears that you can’t, then you don’t really believe in Jesus Christ. What you believe is that if evil needs to be done, then we can dip into the Old Testament for justification.

    If we all followed that rule then the world would be a much worse place than even now.

  • Turgon

    John,
    I must admit that I feared you would begin a theological discussion with me, I almost did not do the blog for that specific reason. However, as you can see I am pointing out that Rev Miller is using an Old Testament analysis to justify a concept of collective guilt. I am using a New Testament analysis to suggest that personal responsibility is the issue and that collective guilt is flawed. However, do not let what I actually said or quoted get in the way of your reply.

  • John O’Connell

    Turgon

    Though I agree that we are not all to blame. The Troubles were a boil waiting to be lanced, but that boil was very firmly lanced by Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams. Without them the Troubles would not have happened. They are the driving force of the Troubles.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Without them the Troubles would not have happened. They are the driving force of the Troubles. “[/i]

    and nothing to do with a failed IRA border campaign?

  • John O’Connell

    Turgon

    I accept that part of your argument about collective guilt and individual responsibility.

    Will you accept my argument that the actions of such people as the security forces, implementing their will through force of arms, is actually contrary to the will of God and cannot therefore contribute to any good society here in the North. Old Testament tactics have no place in achieving Christ’s better world.

    There is no place in Christendom for force of arms, and the example Christ gave was to die before he killed, accepting that defeat is a necessary part of achieving a better world. Victory, I recall, is the way of those who reject Christ.

  • Turgon

    John,
    That is a superficially attractive concept and I see where you are coming from. However, what do you think a Christian should do about opposing violence. If a hypothetical murderer is trying to kill you it may be a good and Christian thing to let him. However, if that murderer is trying to kill a child do you really think the Christian thing to do is to not stop him? if necessary with force?

    At a more practical level Christians opposed the slave trade at times implementing that through force: was that wrong?

    Then the inevitable was fighting the Nazi regime unChristian?

  • John O’Connell

    UMH

    If two leaders on opposing sides are just not prepared to compromise, then it is inevitable that strife will result.

    The failed border campaign failed because some republicans saw sense. On the other hand, Adams went to the extent that he had his own men starved to death in the pursuit of victory.

  • Brian Walker

    Turgon thinks he’s on a winner when he returns repeatedly to this argument especially when advanced by the Cof I, but he short circuits when crossed. I’m genuinely puzzled that someone clearly capable of reason cannot understand there are gradations of responsibility. Is there undisclosed private grief or trauma here I wonder? As one absurdly stigmatised as one of the cowards, I’ll limit myself to a few short comments.

    He tries to be fair about the origins of the 1969 Troubles so we’ll leave them there.

    I believe he would condemn loyalist violence.

    He goes on to say that the bishop’s case “implies that unionists, by not giving in to the IRA who let us remember during most of the campaign demanded actual or promised British withdrawal prior to their ending their murder campaign, were partly responsible for their own murders. This sort of position is never admitted by the likes of Miller etc. but is actually pretty clear.” This wild interpretation of a non-existent implication is a very long way from the bishop’s case and is frankly bonkers. It is too silly even to take as an insult.

    The point he’s blind to is about unionist politics, not about “resitance to the IRA”. It can only be a matter of judgement but it is a commonplace to believe that majority unionist reluctance to deal with moderate nationalists for decades and try to build a shared non-violent platform was deeply unfortunate. It played its part in making the IRA case viable with its own people. Too many unionists (not all) were too susceptible to the hardline case that dealing with the SDLP meant surrender to Dublin as in the “Dublin is only a Sunningdale away” argument. For many years, the Ulster Unionists and the DUP were terrified that they would be outflanked politically by violent loyalists, though at the polls, they never came close. This much is to the credit of the unionist electorate. However, whatever the manoeuvres of successive British governments, the consent principle at the basis of the state was never seriously threatened. That Unionists failed to see this and confuse powersharing with an inevitable drift to unity somehow behind their backs was I believe, a fundamental error that has little to do with Turgon’s musings about Protestant individualism. I wouldn’t harp on it, but wilful blindness of this order can be called a moral failure. To wait 35 years until the IRA was contained was a avoidable tragedy. It is sadly ironic that a line of unionist leaders who started out intransigent changed their tune when faced with the demands of leadership- from Faulkner to Trimble and finally even Paisley. Had unionism behaved like a confident majority and agreed to powersharing in a divided community with non violent nationalism, the credibility of the republican “long war ” republican cause and eventually its capacity might well have eroded sooner and the political rise of Sinn Fein forestalled.Before someone leaps in, by no means all the faults of poltical judgements were on the unionist side, but we are dealing here with someone who appears to believe in unionist blamelessness. My familiar argument is of course about a might-have-been but one which should offset self-righteousness. But then again, the self-righteous love to cling to their eponymous vice.

  • John O’Connell

    If a hypothetical murderer is trying to kill you it may be a good and Christian thing to let him. However, if that murderer is trying to kill a child do you really think the Christian thing to do is to not stop him? if necessary with force?

    You always have the right to take reasonable measures to protect you and the child. You don’t have the right to kill someone you perceive to be a killer.

    At a more practical level Christians opposed the slave trade at times implementing that through force: was that wrong?

    Christians can’t use force. It spoils what they’re trying to create. They simply must find a way to do it differently.

    Then the inevitable was fighting the Nazi regime unChristian?

    Yes. The same rules apply as apply in relation to the North and the British empire. The fighting of the British empire resulted in the unnatural phenomenon of the plantation of Ulster, which created much injustice and violence in the centuries to come.

    The Christian approach can only be to not fight back, but to allow the empire to spread its wings as far as makes it weak and thin on the ground. When it is thin on the ground the empire, without the need to build a military presence because there is no opposition, will simply melt.

    These things are not so much superficial, but the Christian way that we human beings have as yet to believe in fully.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]If two leaders on opposing sides are just not prepared to compromise, then it is inevitable that strife will result.”[/i]

    That’s a bit vague. If one of the leaders demands that a section must pledge allegiance to a Republican 32 county state island nation, then its inevitable that strife will result

  • Driftwood

    Turgon
    Good programme on Monday (tomorrow) night related to your blog:
    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/revelations/episode-guide/series-3/episode-1

    I don’t buy the collective guilt concept, and that is especially true in a liberal democracy like here in the United Kingdom, or Ireland.
    David Ervine used to spout this nonsense.
    I don’t buy the ‘sins of our fathers’ crap either.

  • John O’Connell

    And if the other says “Not an inch” then we’re in trouble.

  • Turgon

    Brian,
    I will thank you not to presume with condescending remarks like private grief and trauma. You well know who I am and well know that that is nonsense: however, lies and innuendo from you are to be expected.

    Again as I have asked you before: why did you not tell us all this when an employed journalist? maybe too worried about the next pay check? Not very moral that eh Brian?

    However, once again you try to suggest that by not giving in to murderers unionists were guilty. That is simply an immoral lie. Your thesis is that unionists by failing to compromise were guilty for their own deaths. Come on Brian was Marie Wilson guilty? how about Kathryn Eakin or do you want to blame her parents? You see that is what it comes down to. You try to hide behind generalities. However, if you do believe what you claim then you must state that innocent victims were in part responsible for their own death. As ever, however, I doubt you are that brave. Well actually I doubt even you are that morally compromised. Hence, you will stick to generalities and innuendo about my motives: from a supposedly professional journalist that is absolutely pathetic.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Who thinks that the church of England/Ireland is papist?

  • Dave

    The problem with Brian’s argument is that it would only make sense if Unionism was an individual. Otherwise, he is ascribing guilt to individuals who he cannot show have committed any wrongful act. Yet, the concept of collective guilt is also used to justify collective punishment (Israel is very fond of using the collective guilt argument to punish Palestinians and loyalist murder gangs in NI predicated their ‘retaliations’ on it)), so he should be more careful about legitimising concepts that are logically inane and morally repugnant.

  • Ulsters My homeland

    [b]Protestant collective guilt ?[/b]

    Why does it have to be Protestant guilt?

  • Silver

    @Different Drummer

    As I said before just because atrocities were committed by the opposition to Apartheid does not make Apartheid right
    Similarly Unionist Ultras ‘legitimacy’ does not flow from the atrocities committed against it.

    That is pish poor rhetoric

    I agree somewhat. The Nazis were not *fundamentally* wrong because of the Holocaust. The Japanese were not *fundamentally* wrong because they tested biological warfare agents on prisoners. It was the lebensraum philosophy and going around invading and dominating other peoples (and for that matter their own people to an extent) without their consent that fundamentally made the Nazis wrong.

    The fundamental wrong of the IRA was their demand for a united Ireland without consent, their elevation of rights of nationalists as superior to rights of unionists in the social contract of the governed for the government. That there could be no compromise maximising the good for the greatest number but a justification in blood, soil, history or even (which links to your point) vengeance for past wrongs (sometimes real, sometimes concocted or exaggerated). Imperfect as partition was it was at least an approximation to a situation of maximisation of the good outcome for the greatest number in the terms of it’s day, thereby acknowledging an equality between nationalists and unionists rights in principle.

    This gave even those minority of loyalist paramilitary murders that were of IRA members at least some little moral justification. Like the woman who punches a man on the nose who declares his intent to rape her even where the law says it unjustified, I can see the point – an act of self defence against someone actively trying to exert domination over you without your consent. No list of wrongs committed by the woman’s ancestors happens to justify a rape.

    Of course as in all border disputes, caused mostly by either migrating people or migrating ideas, as we have seen in Pakistan / Bangladesh / India, Cyprus, the Balkans, and the Caucasus more recently, there are complex relations of land to consent to a particular government and demos, but if we do not at least view others as equals in terms of rights of consent to government then we cannot have anything but an immorally derived position. Which is not to say that a united Ireland cannot possibly be justified from that principle in theory but tales of past wrongs, and features of history are all besides the point in the ethical calculus. The axioms must include equality of rights between the parties, and a correct justification for a united Ireland would need to start from that. Instead we had moral obfuscation through memes such as unionist false consciousness (she was asking for it really we might call it) and we still have a Deputy First Minister who can hardly utter the name of the state he is Deputy First Minister of.

  • “we still are inclined to see ourselves, as a community, as entirely the victims in the Troubles.”

    Where did Harold Miller find this guff? Is it of his own making? Does he imagine that as a CoI Bishop he is entitled to speak on behalf of all Protestants? Is he attempting to provide some sort of cover for the guilty?

  • John

    The problem with the troubles wasn’t the gun and the bombs but the fact that the British government who were and still are the ultimate guardian of Northern Ireland failed to either be an honest broker and they didn’t tackled the underlining problems of divisions in the provience.

    The British governmnet forgot about Northern Ireland for 50 years and they were never fully sure of their status within the UK this futhered insecurity as well as never invested in industry education infrastructure jobs etc.
    During the trouble the British policy was basically divide and conquer play one off against the other which meant that everyone in the North was a loser

    Then by bring in interment, shoot to kill PTA Dioplock courts supergrasses they basically threw out the basically liberty that their country was based on and played the “if you’re against this policy then you must be guilty” by doing this distrasious policy they futher divided the people on religios lines.

    The Good Friday Agreement should be called The Good Fortune Agreement as they basically paided everyone off and never tackled the underlining issuses of divisions.

    Northern Ireland

  • Lugs Brannigan

    “the ethnic cleansing of our people from the South”

    Posted by Ulsters my homeland on Jul 12, 2009 @ 07:12 PM

    That’s very very unfair. We had British rule over the majority within the Union for 120 years. When the majority finally gets power quite a number of the minority decide to feck off back to the “mainland”. I’m certain quite a number of them were wrongly forced out (burning big stately homes etc) but I can argue that a significant number left due to their own bigotry…they were no longer in control and not willing to accept the will of the majority.

    My father had a protestant friend (from rural Leinster) in Dublin in the 50s. Before partition this man had a high ranking job in the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP). After partition he refused a similar position in the Garda Siochana. He didn’t leave for the “mainland” but instead accepted a mickey mouse job at a well known educational establishment. One of his jobs was to raise the tricolour every morning. He avoided this by paying a local scanger (think you lot say spide!) 1p a day to do it.

    My father liked the man, went to his funeral as far as I know, and would be reluctant to call him a bigot but I think his attitude says something about the protestant/unionist tradition at the time in the south. If they weren’t in control they weren’t interested. Of course our lot had to put up with British rule and know our place. If you want to call the famine ethnic cleansing then I suppose America was our “mainland”.

  • Dave

    “What can we agree to say together in repentance and apology for where we as a community went wrong?”

    Well, before anyone repents as instructed, it would be helpful to know what crimes they are accused of committing. Presumably, in the Rt Rev Miller’s world, guilt is a function of political expediency rather than a function of the courts. What crimes did unionists commit or intend to commit by voting for unionist parties?

    No reputable individual or institution promotes the doctrine of collective responsibility in international law. All promote due process wherein individual responsibility for acts is established and conclusions of collective guilt are utterly repudiated. The repugnant concept that a person can be held legally responsible or morally guilty for crimes that others have committed belongs in the Dark Ages and is far from the progressive agenda that the Rt Rev Miller proffers it as being.

    It isn’t surprising, of course, that those who still practice the discredited doctrine of collective responsibility and collective punishment are terrorists. 9/11, for example, was an act of collective punishment. In all such acts, it isn’t the guilty individuals (of whatever the punishment is for) who are punished but rather the collective to which the guilty individuals belong. So just as terrorists see communities as collectively guilty, the State is seeking to give legitimacy to this repugnant concept (contrary to international law) because it has let all the guilty individuals out of jail and has a policy of not holding other individuals accountable for their crimes.

  • Mack

    Is this the same Hazlett Lynch that voted for the Belfast Agreement???

  • Harry Flashman

    There is no need for some sort of “collective guilt” on the behalf of Protestants or Unionists, absolutely absurd.

    But equally there is no “collective guilt” for Catholic Nationalists either.

    This seems rather obvious to me so the entire issue is irrelevant.

  • Dae

    I dismiss the doctrine of collective guilt without equivocation (my libertarian side), so it doesn’t apply to either community. Miller doesn’t specify what Protestants are allegedly collectively guilty of, but it must be either being in the old Stormont, voting for old Stormont politicians, or else they’re guilty of crimes committed by Protestant murder gangs. Even within this flawed doctrine of collective responsibility, one group cannot be deemed to be collectively responsible for the crimes of another group, so they can’t be held accountable for the sectarian murder campaign of the other group (whose self-serving narrative blames their sectarian murder campaign on Protestants). If Miller is implying that Protestants are collectively responsible for the crimes of Catholics – and thereby merited the collective punishment they endured from sectarian murder gangs – then he is even more demented than he sounds.

  • Kevster

    In my estimation, anyone who sees social injustice which places them in an advantageous position, and by their silence seeks to maintain their advantage, has done the wrong thing. For instance, those Unionists/Protestants living and working in Londonderry in the 1960’s as part of the minority Protestant administration of the town did themselves no credit as Christians or democrats, in my opinion.

    But I would not hold their children responsible. That would not be justice either.

  • Dewi

    It’s difficult to regard the “Protestant state for a Protestant people” as something other than “collective”. Anyone who suppoorted the UUP through the abolition of PR, gerrymandering, housing allocation etc. would have been part of the oppression. A long time ago however.

  • Brian Walker

    Turgon asks me:
    “Again as I have asked you before: why did you not tell us all this when an employed journalist? maybe too worried about the next pay check? Not very moral that eh Brian?”

    He writes as if I’ve said something shocking or just come out as a communist spy at the height for the Cold War or something. I offer views that would have been posed as questions in news broadcasting and wrote them up directly in the Belfast Telgraph. My views are unexceptional, far from heterodox. Turgon must inhabit a very strange world if he thinks otherwise.

    I’m not that keen on collective guilt either and prefer the more pragmatic approach of collective responsibility.

    But I’m dismissive abour Turgon’s tedious Biblical scrabble for two reasons. First, it is essentially authoritarian. It demands allegiance to an orthodoxy of belief and denounces alternatives. This is the reverse of individualism.

    Secondly, an early symptom of this authoritarianism is the abandonment of the veneer of civility and the ridiculous accusations of of illwill, immorality etc. He should not get away with this. Too often in Northern Ireland’s sad story have bad behaviour and religious ranting been indulged in the vain hope of reaching understanding. Honest doubt should not retreat in the face of perverse certainties. The obsessive return to the subject though may be an underlying plea for acceptance. No chance of that without a change of heart. How about Turgon the Pharisee as a mini St Paul?

  • Reader

    Dewi: Anyone who suppoorted the UUP through the abolition of PR, gerrymandering, housing allocation etc. would have been part of the oppression.
    How about housing allocation and jobs in nationalist controlled councils then? A different set of oppressors? Collective punishment? Self-defence?
    Kevster: For instance, those Unionists/Protestants living and working in Londonderry…
    But also victims, since the Civil Rights protesters said that the whole city had been disadvantaged by investment decisions by Stormont.

    Apart from abolishing PR, it’s all a lot like the clientilism practiced for even longer down south. And in fact, didn’t FF try to abolish PR too?

  • Kevster

    Reader? That is nothing but “whataboutery” and does nothing to answer Rev. Miller’s question or support Turgeon’s denial of any Protestant ever doing anything to set the stage for the turmoil of the Troubles. It is, however, the sort of nonsense I would expect to read here today.

  • I like to think that I’m a religious person with a measure of spirituality thrown in – or vice versa.
    But whenever I read self serving ‘holier than thou’ sermons from the likes of Turgon, with his quotes from the bible etc (what’s that about the Devil citing scripture?) I have to say it makes me nauseous.

    It was themmuns that started is the catch call of school yard bully. No doubt Turgon is someone whose salvation is assured – the rest of us will have to carry the burden he disdains to carry on his lily white conscience…

  • chris

    They just cant grasp it, shame

  • Dave

    [i]It’s difficult to regard the “Protestant state for a Protestant people” as something other than “collective”.[/i]

    Dewi, “collective” is not the same thing as collective guilt/responsibility, so establishing that a collective exists means nothing. Try claiming a pension from the Japanese government and you’ll quickly discover that it is a Japanese state for a Japanese people.

    In actuality, Stormont was constitutionally prohibited from favouring one religion over another under the Government of Ireland Act 1921, so you will find that just as many protestants were disadvantaged by those measures as Catholics (indeed, some reports show that they hit working class protestants harder).

  • history repeats itself

    If you follow Turgon’s rambling assertions to their logical conclusion then one would have to hold the view that there is no causation in history and that eminent historians who, for example, ascribe some of the origins of the 2nd World War to the economic emasculation of Germany by the Treaty of Versailles are deluded. This is palpable nonsense and an insult to any thinking person’s intelligence. As a Protestant I have to realise that the the “Troubles” did not spring from the ground and that the bindingly obvious and seriously unchristian inequalities in our society were bound to foster resentment and hatred. Throughout history it has been shown that nations and peoples have long collective memories and when these are coupled with blatant apartheid attitudes we have a recipe for social and personal disaster. It really is daft to try and ignore history when today the “kick the pope” bands have been out in force to celebrate 1690. Duh.

  • Reader

    Kevster: Reader? That is nothing but “whataboutery” and does nothing to answer Rev. Miller’s question
    Actually, it does. If people are saying that voting unionist carries blame (and that’s what I see above) then you need to specify what alternatives were there at the time? Voting to be bounced into another clientilist state, where most of the decisions were made by FF? That doesn’t seem so smart.
    And in council elections – what options?

  • Dave

    history repeats itself, what you are asserting is that protestants are collectively responsible for crimes that were committed by individuals who are Catholics, right? That has nothing to do with the doctrine of collective responsibility since that discredited doctrine asserts that a collective is responsible for crimes that were committed by individuals who are members of that group, not members of a different group. In other words, Protestants may be held collectively responsible for crimes committed by Protestants and Catholics may be held collectively responsible for crimes committed by Catholics but Catholics cannot be held collectively responsible for crime committed by Protestants and vice versa.

    This is simply pandering to a political process that seeks to absolve members of sectarian murder gangs of responsibility for their crimes by seeking to blame those crimes on their victims who were, presumably, just “asking for it.” Because murderers were rewarded with power under this political process, an attempt must be made to present their murder campaign as something spontaneous, inevitable, and natural but, of course, regrettable – in other words, the vileness of these murders must be diminished and responsibility must be shifted from the victimisers onto the victims.

  • Dave

    Typo: “… the vileness of these murder[b]er[/b]s must be diminished and responsibility must be shifted from the victimisers onto the victims.”

  • Dave

    One other point about the ‘spontaneous and inevitable’ narrative that is proffered by the murder gangs and their apologists (which now includes the state and its stooges): the murders were not spontaneous at all but were highly organised and were under the control of a small number of individuals who orchestrated them. 99% of the population had no involvement in these this sectarian murder campaign at all. Indeed, if these murder gangs were not formed, there would have been little or no violence. So, this isn’t even remotely a civil war situation where two tribes were butchering each other – it was a tiny number of highly organised sectarian murder gangs. The organisers of those murder gangs are now celebrated as heroes by this political process, and generously rewarded by the State with power, tout-for-cash payments, pensions, ministerial cars, and even cash-for-guns. They should have been hanged for their crimes, not rewarded for them.

  • “It’s difficult to regard the ‘Protestant state for a Protestant people’ as something other than ‘collective’.”

    Dewi, are you thinking of this 1934 quote from James Craig?

    Mr. LEEKE: What about your Protestant Parliament?

    The PRIME MINISTER: The hon. Member must remember that in the South they boasted of a Catholic State. They still boast of Southern Ireland being a Catholic State. All I boast of is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State. It would be rather interesting for historians of the future to compare a Catholic State launched in the South with a Protestant State launched in the North and to see which gets on the better and prospers the more. It is most interesting for me at the moment to watch how they are progressing. I am doing my best always to top the bill and to be ahead of the South.

  • Turgon

    Brian Walker,
    “I’m dismissive abour Turgon’s tedious Biblical scrabble for two reasons. First, it is essentially authoritarian. It demands allegiance to an orthodoxy of belief and denounces alternatives.”

    Actually Brian I am objecting to a CoI prelate telling me that I have to repent because he has defined me as having done something wrong. As I explained I believe in the priesthood of all believers (a pretty standard Protestant doctrine) and as such I feel that I am answerable personally to the God. Since that is by definition an individual position I cannot see how it is authoritarian.

    As to lack of civility, I get annoyed when you produce condescending remarks about me which you know to be factually incorrect such as suggesting “Is there undisclosed private grief or trauma here I wonder?” Since you know exactly who I am and my background I regard this concious lie telling about me as a man playing attempt to undermine my position hiding behind a veneer of civility. It is the same as your previous condescending comments such as “Perhaps one day, you’ll have a go at these matters in a less exposed forum, in sympathetic but diverse company and have a rethink. There’s something about you that gives me hope!”

    By all means disagree with my analysis just try to stop playing the man. You will then find that I get a lot less annoyed with you. I suspect the problem is that you do not have a coherent intellectual position and as such resort to these tactics. Dave has rather effectively pointed out that your thesis would only work if unionism was an individual person. Since it is not your thesis is as valid as the ones which lumped all Tutsis together.

    On the central issue that unionists were in part responsible for the events which caused their deaths which you keep avoiding. I still await you explaining how Marie Wilson or Kathyrn Eakin (or her parents) were in part responsible for their deaths.

  • doctor

    I fail to see how Bishop Miller, Brian Walker, or anyone else here is implying that innocent victims like Marie Wilson were responsible for their own deaths. Or that voting unionist automatically makes you bad, or any other kind of generalization that is being ascribed to them.

    Its obviously not an easy thing to do, but for a second lets put the countless needless deaths aside. We are still left with a deeply divided society where relations between the two communities are very poor and where deep suspicion, mistrust and downright hatred exists without even getting into physical violence. Its silly to pretend that such attitudes only exist within some tiny minority that would go as far as pick up a gun or bomb.

    What Miller seems to be saying is that unionism, in the form of organizations like political parties, churches, the OO etc, should take responsibility for some of these attitudes and find ways to address it. He is not absolving the nationalist side or suggesting its a one-way street.

    A case in point would be the Orange Order, specifically their recent public pronouncements over the last few days. They have yet to take responsibility for any of the discord they have caused over the years, pat themselves on the back for some invisible respect they show to nationalist culture, and whinge about ethnic cleansing amd all kinds of ridiculous fantasies. This does not mean there aren’t plenty of decent members, and it certainly doesn’t mean they deserve any violence directed at it. But as an organization they would be much more useful if they made a genuine effort at solving some of the problems within this society.

    And before it is brought up, the same applies to the nationalist side as well.

  • Dewi

    “In actuality, Stormont was constitutionally prohibited from favouring one religion over another under the Government of Ireland Act 1921”

    But they did Dave – I don’t think anyone denies that.

    Nevin – marginal – a few examples in the South compared to systematic discrimenation in the North.

  • Reader

    Dewi: Nevin – marginal – a few examples in the South compared to systematic discrimenation in the North.
    Nevin fixed your quote and set it in context. Here’s more context – the Catholic State banned contraception and divorce too. Do you still think our ancestors *should* have voted themselves out of the Union?

  • Different Drummer

    Sliver You Start from what you think was my premise and expand on it – I don’t accept what you took to be my premise or the expansion… (reading of my original post is required)

    You say that my South African Example implies that:

    The Nazis were not *fundamentally* wrong because of the Holocaust.

    I say

    Ah come on now – what did I say about pish poor rhetoric…
    The Holocaust was an atrocity committed by the NAZI regime. The implication to be drawn form my argument in this case would be –for example that Dresden was an atrocity committed by the allies against the German regime – but that did not mean that it that atrocity legitimated the NAZI regime.

    You Say

    The Japanese were not *fundamentally* wrong because they tested biological warfare agents on prisoners.

    I Say

    Again that was an atrocity perpetrated by the Japanese themselves. The implication to be drawn from my argument in this case would be that the American fire bombing of Japanese cites and the use of two Atomic weapons were atrocities committed by the allies against the Japanese regime that did not legitimate any ‘rightness’ of the Japanese Empire and or its atrocities.

    Now we turn to that occupied term ‘lebemsraum’ you use the term Hitler used to justify his expansion eastward and his atrocities which you liken to the IRA activity:

    You Say:

    It was the lebensraum philosophy and going around invading and dominating other peoples (and for that matter their own people to an extent) without their consent that fundamentally made the Nazis wrong. The fundamental wrong of the IRA was their demand for a united Ireland without consent, their elevation of rights of nationalists as superior to rights of unionists in the social contract of the governed for the government.

    I Say

    Now you really are taking the pish – it was the UVF bombs that blew the unionist regime apart NOT IRA bombs. It was those bombs that caused the fall of Capt O’Neil as they were blamed on the IRA. I think those bombs were atrocities against the Liberal unionist leadership and the civil rights movement whose demands they agreed with. It was because of this and O’Neil’s catholic support that the unionist ultras went on the warpath and started burning and shooting in earnest that summer. Let’s be clear NO consent was given for that. And if you begin without consent then how you would you expect things to proceed?

    In your argument things get a little hazy after this as you are under the mistaken belief that any right or rights to be procured, or supported must be done so with the (majority) consent. I think ethical speaking that simply is not true. The overwhelming number of Kenyan’s supported a brutal British counter insurgency against the minority tribes who supported independence. That did not make their torture, internment and their killing judicial and extra judicial right because the majority agreed that they should be hunted down imprisoned and or executed for their beliefs.

    You Say

    That there could be no compromise maximising the good for the greatest number but a justification in blood, soil, history or even (which links to your point) vengeance for past wrongs (sometimes real, sometimes concocted or exaggerated).

    I Say

    Let’s be clear August 1969 – was not an imaginary event though it appears to be in your view of those who suffered it. But pseudo Freudianly speaking the victims were given quite a lot to fabulate about thus producing a sometimes real, sometimes concocted or exaggerated military reaction…

    The other (unrecognized) meaning of your para can be simply translated as: all revolutionaries are really pol pots – contentious to say the least…Cromwell? Washington? Better still were does that leave liberal reformers? Gladstone? Lord Wyndam. Capt O’Neil? By which I mean leaders who take up a contentious issue and try to change the publics mind – you know the sort of person who thinks that liberal democracy is better than a state that is inherently susceptible to reactionary fear mongering – the type of self fulfilling ‘prophecies’ of Paisley’s and Powell’s. Defame and attack people and what do you know they will prove to be the monsters we said they were…

  • Different Drummer

    @ Sliverado 2

    As You were Saying:

    Imperfect as partition was it was at least an approximation to a situation of maximisation of the good outcome for the greatest number in the terms of it’s day, thereby acknowledging equality between nationalists and unionists rights in principle.

    I Say

    And when someone (after 50 years) tried to practice that equality as O’Neil did what happened? – we got Paisley then we got Powell. That does not bode well for Equality or Stability – or for anything for that matter – least of all anything like liberal democracy.

    You Say

    This gave even those minority of loyalist paramilitary murders that were of IRA members at least some little moral justification. Like the woman who punches a man on the nose who declares his intent to rape her even where the law says it unjustified, I can see the point – an act of self-defense against someone actively trying to exert domination over you without your consent. No list of wrongs committed by the woman’s ancestors happens to justify a rape.
    I Say

    Since you have left out crucial words and maybe a sentence or two at the beginning of this para you should re-post. But the jist is yet another recognizable unionist fable/ characterization of history of the troubles.

    Since the recent troubles are long and complex affairs with large omissions then we must do with the old ‘offences against the person analogy’ -rape – which can be confused with the ‘offences against property analogy’ . You know the one I mean:
    Liberal reformer “I’m worried about the amount of unnecessary hatred and racist violence that the police deal out to black suspects”

    Illiberal conformer: “Listen mate I wana ask you something what would you do if someone (black) broke into your house….”
    This is your illiberal conformist view of the Ulster saga

    You Wrote:

    I can see the point – an act of self-defense against someone actively trying to exert domination over you without your consent. No list of wrongs committed by the woman’s ancestors happens to justify a rape.

    I translate and do a little disambiguation:

    Those who do not want Ulster to change are from innocent stock they are not responsible for the outrages of the past. And it gives no one the right to take their birth right (most of all her maiden head away from them) now where have I heard analogy or rather from what pulpit have I heard it often preached?

    But what if the subject is suffering of a form of ideological psychosis where she believes god is telling her to despise hate and fear those who live down the street and she knows she’s right because she is in THE MAJORITY… then what? It could be expected that similar behavior would be widespread…

    So Equal fear on both sides?? – err no fear of status loss is not the same as being in fear for your life. That was the real inequality that we began with!! And if Dr T and Jim Ulster Allister have their way that inequality will intensify more killing more kicking’s.

  • Different Drummer

    @ Sliverado 3
    You Continue
    Of course as in all border disputes, caused mostly by either migrating people or migrating ideas, as we have seen in Pakistan / Bangladesh / India, Cyprus, the Balkans, and the Caucasus more recently, there are complex relations of land to consent to a particular government and demos, but if we do not at least view others as equals in terms of rights of consent to government then we cannot have anything but an immorally derived position.

    I Counter

    Those examples are the consequences of failed imperial compromises (Pakistan / Bangladesh / India, Cyprus, the Balkans, and the Caucasus).That now have additional political and economic factors such as Pakistan an ill judged border that has been disputed – But a country that has not just Islamic insurgency but also a class based opposition. Bangladesh a country created by reformers who wanted to break with Pakistan’s generals IMFed to death after independence. India a land that put their own version of Powell and Paisley in power which almost caused world war III Remember there is nothing inherently better about being a Hindu a catholic or a protestant. But if you have a majority BASED on the belief that it is inherently better to be a protestant and that you think you need a state to protect you from those you are not protestants then there will be never be ‘consent’ on any ‘morally derived position’ between Catholics and protestants.

    You Conclude:

    Which is not to say that a united Ireland cannot possibly be justified from that principle in theory but tales of past wrongs, and features of history are all besides the point in the ethical calculus. The axioms must include equality of rights between the parties, and a correct justification for a united Ireland would need to start from that. Instead we had moral obfuscation through memes such as unionist false consciousness (she was asking for it really we might call it) and we still have a Deputy First Minister who can hardly utter the name of the state he is Deputy First Minister of.

    And I say

    Bit of an Admixture that… some imagery some myths some cultural cringe. The myths (she was asking for it’) I have dealt with – see above about the Ulster (protestant-unionist people) as an innocent maiden in peril aboard Irish history. Memes err no it’s power we are talking about here and the reluctance of our interlocutor(s) to face up to the consequence of his pursuit of power and most importantly the type of power that Jim-Ullster-Allister wants.

  • Dave

    Fair point. But that is about individual responsibility, which I don’t think anybody has a problem with – a little soul-searching never did anybody any harm. There are many organisations and institutions that could do – and could have done – better. The Rt Rev Miller, however, refers to Protestants as a collective:

    [i]”We, that is Protestants, need to unilaterally look at our own faults, failings and sins, state them and confess them, because we still are inclined to see ourselves, as a community, as entirely the victims in the Troubles.”[/i]

    The imperative is that they must do this, presumably, because if they don’t then they will revert to type and provoke another generation of poor victims to attack them: “We need to remember that we must not go back there.” Therefore, he asks “What can we agree to say together in repentance and apology for where we as a community went wrong?”

    He places this gibberish in the context of the discredited Eames-Bradley Report which has a clear political agenda of ‘sharing’ responsibility for criminal acts between groups who had no actual responsibility for them:

    [i]”We need to deal with some of the issues of hurt from those 40 years.

    “I have found the lack of debate and discussion on the Eames-Bradley Report profoundly depressing, and have probably colluded with it.

    “The £12,000 payment issue froze people into a fear of response, lest that might be thought to be letting their community down.

    “Our problem is this: if we don’t deal with the hurts, but rather freeze them into numbness, they will come back to haunt us.”[/i]

  • Dave

    Err… the above was in reply to this:

    “What Miller seems to be saying is that unionism, in the form of organizations like political parties, churches, the OO etc, should take responsibility for some of these attitudes and find ways to address it. He is not absolving the nationalist side or suggesting its a one-way street.” – doctor

  • oldruss

    At the outset, let me admit that I’m a Yank, and therefore it could be argued that I might have no standing in this argument. But, if I do not have standing, then no person has standing to make observations or to be critical of any other country’s political and social system. Such isolationist principles may be preferred in some quarters, but in an ever-shrinking world, do not seem to be practical, nor do they seem to be moral.

    That said, could someone explain who is responsible for the 712 Catholic civilians who were deliberately targeted and murdered by loyalist paramilitaries (1969 – 2001)? See, Sutton, Malcom, “Sutton Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland”, (1994); Appendix – Statistical Summary by Malcom Sutton, (updated October 2002), Beyond the Pale Publications, Belfast; included on the CAIN Web Service, http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/sutton/book/index.html#append, retrieved, July 14, 2009.

    By definition, this category of victims were not republican paramilitaries, were not republican or nationalist politicians, were not uniformed personnel of the British Army or of the RUC. Sutton defined this category as follows, “Deliberate killing of Catholic civilians.”

    Does responsibility for these victims’ deaths go beyond the specific individuals responsible for targeting and then murdering them? Is there any responsibility on the part of the British Army or British government for allowing this slaughter of innocents to have occurred? Is there any responsibility on the part of the Royal Ulster Constabulary? Is there any responsibility on the part of the majority unionist community or on the part of the unionist politicians to not have done more to prevent these murders?

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘However, 1969 was 40 years ago’

    This post has a poor grasp of history. If your gonna talk about the conflict, its alot older than what you seem to think it is. The picking of a recent date seems to be done to suit a particular agenda.

  • Different Drummer

    OK LISTEN UP – I MEAN THIS!!

    On the central issue that unionists were in part responsible for the events which caused their deaths which you keep avoiding. I still await you explaining how Marie Wilson or Kathyrn Eakin (or her parents) were in part responsible for their deaths.

    Marie Wilson Kathyrn Eakin did not die so that you could use their deaths to legitimate your reactionary politics. Turgon the new ultra.

    I think it is the height of cowardice to use their deaths as a moral lever against those who rightly opposed to you and all you stand for.

  • Different Drummer

    I would also like to add that the concept of ‘collective guilt’ has it’s origins in post war German experience it s foisted on the Germans as way of paralyzing any (radical) dissent. Some of the best art and radical politics was formed by first challenging the notion of German collective guilt.

    The rejection of German ‘collective guilt’ was the beginning for great artists and writers also like Fasbinder and the poet and critic Hans Magus Ensensberger.

    This lazy conservative theological idea has no relevance here – it was a mere passing reference by the padre concerned – (they like being on the radio.)

    Slugger proves what we should except that a minority of Protestants want liberal democracy and want every body to be full citizens of a non-theologically based state.

    Thanks to modernity the EU and the clerical scandals both parts of the island are not as different as they were forty years ago. But I have to say Im worried by Unionist Ultras because it is they who point the finger at liberal protestants and say they are ‘guilty’ – meaning they are liberals because they feel guilty.
    I would say that is not quilt at all it is desire for a bigot free society. And no Brain W – they CAN’T be held responsible for not having the numbers and the organization to thwart the TUV.